We are fast approaching the start of spring training, and almost all of the big-name free agents are spoken for. That said, it’s still the offseason, and that means rumors can be found. We have found them and rounded them up for Thursday. Here they are, those rumors that we spoke of just now…
Kershaw unsure on future with Dodgers
Dodgers lefty, franchise legend, and future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw is eligible for free agency next offseason, which means that 2021 will be a walk year for him. He turns 34 next month, and he’s endured some level of decline since his peak. That said, Kershaw’s deep repertoire and exceptional command have allowed him to cope quite well with velocity loss, and he figures to remain a high-quality starting pitcher for at least the near- to mid-term. So surely the Dodgers lifer will finish out his career in L.A., right? To hear Kershaw himself tell it, maybe not. Here’s this excerpt from a longer piece on Kershaw by Jorge Castillo of The Los Angeles Times:
This will be the first time Kershaw enters a season with free agency looming. He said he hasn’t discussed a contract extension with the Dodgers. Does he want one?
“I don’t know,” he said. “Honestly, I wish I had an answer.”
Kershaw is entering the final year of his three-year, $93 million pact, which he signed after using an opt-out in his previous contract. As Castillo notes, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman confirms that the two sides have yet to talk about a new contract, but Friedman also noted the obvious reality that Kershaw in an ideal world would finish his career as a Dodger. Speaking of which, retirement is a possibility for Kershaw, given that he and his wife Ellen have three school-age children, and so is signing with a team closer to his Dallas home. Whatever the ultimate outcome, uncertainty right now reigns when it comes to Kershaw’s future with the Dodgers.
Mets not closing door on Kris Bryant trade
The Cubs this offseason have already dealt away Yu Darvish and non-tendered Kyle Schwarber in the self-defeating name of paring payroll, and it’s entirely possible one or more additional veteran core contributors will be traded before Opening Day. One of those is third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant, who may still be of interest to the Mets:
On January 6, we reported that any talks between Mets and Cubs on Kris Bryant were no longer active. That was true at the time. TIL it has changed since. Unclear how likely it is to happen, but there is at least something there.
— Andy Martino (@martinonyc) February 11, 2021
By the sounds of it nothing is imminent, and the most likely outcome may be that nothing comes of this. Still, given the Mets’ prior designs on George Springer and or DJ LeMahieu, landing Bryant as a consolation prize would make sense on multiple levels.
Bryant, 29, is coming off a disappointing 2020 season in which he put up an OPS+ of 70 in 34 games for the Cubs. Those numbers, however, are dismissed easily enough given the small sample size involved and given that the season was played amid a global pandemic. Overall, Bryant owns a career OPS+ of 134 across parts of six major-league seasons with three All-Star appearances and the NL MVP award in 2016. Over that span, Bryant has averaged 31 home runs per 162 games played with significant time spent at third base and the outfield corners. Bryant has proved to be somewhat injury-prone in recent seasons, and that remains a concern moving forward. Bryant is third-year arbitration eligible for 2021, which means he’s in for a substantial raise over his non-prorated 2020 salary of $18.6 million. He’s slated for free agency after the upcoming season.
As for the Cubs, they have real bounce-back potential on offense in 2021, but dealing away Bryant would heavily cut into that bounce-back potential and may even herald a deeper tear-down. As well, dealing away such a key member of the Cubs’ 2015-2020 run of contention would surely not play well among fans who already have plenty of cause for frustration. On the Mets’ side, though, Bryant could move the needle for them in what figures to be a hotly competitive NL East.
Cubs agree to terms with Jake Marisnick
The Cubs have agreed to terms with veteran outfielder Jake Marisnick, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports. Marisnick, who turns 30 in late March, is coming off a 2020 season with the Mets in which he batted .333/.353/.606, albeit in just 16 games. For his career, Marisnick owns an OPS+ of 81 across parts of eight MLB seasons, six of which came with the Astros. He can play all three outfield positions and has some speed on the bases. In Chicago, Marisnick’s right-handed bat could pair well with Joc Pederson in left, and he could occasionally spell Jason Heyward against tough lefties and back up Ian Happ in center.
Red Sox, JBJ reunion likelier after trade
The incumbent Red Sox appear to be the favorites to land free agent fly-catcher Jackie Bradley Jr.:
Two rival executives believe the Red Sox are likely to sign Jackie Bradley Jr. now that they have traded Andrew Benintendi. “It makes too much sense not to happen now,” one said.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) February 11, 2021
Granted “rival executives” are not privy to Boston’s thinking, but, yes, this tracks. The trade of Andrew Benintendi to the Royals leaves a hole in the outfield, and Bradley would capably fill it. Bradley, who remains a defensive asset in center, is coming off a 2020 season in which he put up an OPS+ of 118 in 55 games. For his career, he owns an OPS+ of 94 across parts of eight big-league seasons. Bradley turns 31 in April and has spent his entire professional career with the Red Sox. Needless to say, his return would please a Red Sox fan base that’s been disaffected by recent cost-cutting moves by the franchise.
Blue Jays sign reliever David Phelps
According to multiple reports, Toronto has added a veteran right-handed reliever David Phelps on a one-year contract that will pay him $1.75 million for the 2021 season. Phelps, 34, struggled overall last season, but it was across a sample of just 20 2/3 innings. For his career, he’s pitched to a 102 ERA+ with a K/BB ratio of 2.47 in parts of eight major-league seasons. He’s worked exclusively as a reliever since 2017.
Pirates sign Tony Wolters to minor-league deal
The Pirates have signed veteran catcher Tony Wolters to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training, the team announced. Wolters, 28, has a career slash line of .238/.323/.319 over five big-league seasons, and that’s despite playing all his home games in Coors Field. With the Pirates, he’ll likely be battling Michael Perez for the right to serve as Jacob Stallings’ backup this season.